Tag Archives: bread

Ruth, The Faithful Moabitess

My discipleship group is doing a study on the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.  I thought it might be fun to share with you some of what God is showing us through our study of this small but remarkable book.  At only 4 chapters long, it is quite short, but it is packed full of wisdom and application.  Today, I’ll concentrate on Chapter 1, which you can read in the NIV here.  (I’ll write about a different chapter for each of the next three Sundays.)

Naomi and her husband, Elimelek, lived in the time of the Judges, when man did what was best in his own eyes.  Famine hit Bethlehem where they lived, and instead of trusting God to provide, they moved to Moab, which was in enemy territory.  Their two sons, Mahlon and Kilion, grew up and married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah, breaking God’s commands not to intermarry with the Moabites.  However, Elimelek and his sons all died, leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah widowed.  Naomi now had no means of support and all the money was gone, so she decided to return to Bethlehem as she had heard that the Lord was providing food for His people there.

As Naomi and her daughters-in-law start out, Naomi commands her daughters-in-law to return to their own homes and not to go with her to Bethlehem.  Both daughters-in-law cry, but Orpah leaves to return to her own mother’s home.  Ruth, however, refuses to go.  Naomi tells her, “Your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.” (verse 15)  Ruth’s stunning reply is, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (verses 16 and 17)  This is truly great evidence of her faithfulness; she leaves behind her own family and her old ways and chooses Naomi as family and chooses the Lord as her God.  So, the two women return to Bethlehem.

The journey from Moab to Bethlehem would not have been an easy one, especially for two women travelling alone.  We don’t know if they had any food at all along the way or any money to purchase any, but it can be inferred that they did not as the point of the return journey was to find food.  They would have had to  traverse the River Jordan as they walked around the Dead Sea from Moab to Judah.  The Lord protects them on their journey, however, as they ultimately arrive safely in Bethlehem.

When they get to Bethlehem, Naomi’s return causes quite a stir among the women.  (verse 19)  In testament to the state of her heart at her change in fortune, Naomi tells them not to call her Naomi, which means pleasant, but to call her Mara, which means bitter.  (verse 20)  She is at the lowest point of her life.  She acknowledges her change in status; there is no pretense.  There is no evidence that Ruth was bitter in heart, however.

Verse 22 tells us another piece of wonderful information, and that is that they arrive in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was starting.  (“Bethlehem” means “House of Bread”.)  This is God’s timing for sure, and His plan to provide for these two women was already in motion.  Barley was the first harvest, followed immediately by the wheat harvest.  After a total of seven weeks of harvest, the Jews would celebrate the Feast of Weeks to thank the Lord for what they had been given.

How often do we, like Elimilek, go our own way and try to provide for ourselves, only to have our plans end in disaster?  (I know I’ve done it more times than I can count.)  How often do we, like Orpah, return to our old ways when things get hard?  How often do we, like Naomi, respond to hard circumstances in our lives with bitterness?  May we all instead have the faithfulness of Ruth, leaving our old ways and facing the unknown with God guiding our steps!

What did you take away from reading this first chapter of Ruth?  Share your insights in the comments.  Let’s start a conversation!

 

 

 

The Bread of Life

As John 6 opens, we find Jesus being followed by crowds of people who had seen his miracles and wanted to see more.  As they gathered around Him as He and His disciples sat in the hills, Jesus asked Phillip how they could feed the crowd.  Seeing only the impossibility of the situation, Phillip responds that it would cost a fortune to feed so many people.  Andrew points out a young boy with five loaves and two fish, but even he doesn’t seem to expect the miracle that Jesus performs.  Jesus takes the loaves and fish, gives thanks to God for it and passes it out to the people, feeding everyone and leaving twelve baskets full of leftovers after everyone had eaten their fill.  The people, seeing this, exclaim that Jesus must be the Prophet for whom they had waited, but they still don’t understand who Jesus is.  The people want to make Him their king when He offers to be their Savior.

The crowds continue to seek Him the next day, and eventually they catch up to where Jesus is teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.  Jesus knows that they are following Him only because they saw His miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 the previous day.  In verses 26 and 27, He says to them:

26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man[a] can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

The people have been seeking miracles instead of seeking the miracle Maker.  They seem to view Jesus as some sort of reality TV show; they want to see His next “trick” and find out how it will be of benefit to them.  Jesus seems to be of great entertainment value to the people.

However, the people do ask Jesus what God wants them to do.  Jesus tells them that God wants them to believe in the one He has sent (verse 29).  The people then apparently suffer a memory lapse, because they tell Jesus that He must perform a miraculous sign for them to believe in Him — as if they hadn’t just seen and benefited from his miraculous feeding the day before!   Jesus explains that they are now being offered the true bread from heaven, and the people say that this is what they want.  At that time, Jesus replies, “I am the bread of life.”  He goes on to explain that anyone who eats of this bread has eternal life and that His flesh is the bread and His blood is the drink.  The people do not understand this concept at all, and they murmur among themselves about what He could mean.  In fact, even His disciples could not all accept this difficult teaching and many abandoned Him that day.  Jesus turns to the Twelve and asks them if they are going to leave Him, too.  The beautiful response comes in verses 68-69:

68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.[a]

Aren’t we often like the people in this chapter, seeking the miracle instead of the miracle Maker?  Oh, that we would seek after Him above all else!  Even when we try to follow Him, don’t we sometimes find His words to be hard to understand and difficult to follow?  Take heart!  As James tells us, all we have to do is ask for wisdom and He will gladly give it to us (James 1:5).    Such wisdom will help us understand what God wants us to do, and He will, by His Holy Spirit working within us, give us everything we need in order to follow Him.  Now that is good news indeed.